Feijoada: the history of Brazil’s national dish invented by enslaved Africans

There are a variety of tasty dishes in Brazil. Name it – from Farofa, Vatapa, Empadao to Pastel. But, the most famous among them all is feijoada. Its popularity does not only lie in its taste but in its origins as well. The name feijao comes from the word beans. Feijoada is essentially prepared by mixing beans stew with beef and pork.

Some school of thought posits that it comes from a Portuguese favorite dish because of its national appeal there. But, this has been discounted. Historians argue that, if that was the case, it would not be a popular dish in many African nations such as Angola, Mozambique and Cape Verde that have multiple recipes for it, according to Culture Trip.

Many historians trace feijoada’s origins to slavery in Brazil. According to them, it was a dish which came about as a result of the attempts by enslaved people to make something out of leftover beans and meat from their owners’ dining tables.

The belief is that the enslaved usually cooked it on sugar plantations anytime they had in their stock beans and pork from the leftovers they saved from the owners’ table. Black beans is common to find in Brazil.

Beans was settled on because of its cheap cost and easy way of preparation. They added slices of beef or pork to it to have a stew. With time, many homes began cooking feijoada in large quantities in order to serve large households.

Whether it has a Portuguese or African origin, feijoada has come to stay on the menu of Brazil’s eateries and homes. A week never goes by without someone making a pass at their tasty feijoada. Brazilians are proud of this dish. The talk during football games aside from the goals is what meal should crown the day. Many a time, it is feijoada.

To give the dish a bit of style, some individuals include pig ears, tails or feet to give it a unique blend of taste. Feijoada can be eaten with rice, well-cut oranges, and toasted cassava flour. The meal will surely get any to salivate when it is served hot and spicy with an array of traditional music anywhere.

Knock on the doors of any eatery in Brazil, one can bet to find it on the menu even at plush restaurants. The Brazilian is feijoada and the dish is the identity of the football nation. If one wants to know how deeply feijoada is ingrained in the culture of Brazil, this is just the clue. Saturdays are considered feijoada days in Brazil. Families use their weekends to enjoy their favorite beans stew laced with pork and slices of beef.

The preparation of feijoada, according to Smithsonian mag, requires love and in-depth knowledge of how to make it for one to arrive at the much-loved aroma and taste it commands.

When cooking it in Brazil, one cannot do without the black beans while in Bahia, one requires red or brown beans. The region from where it’s prepared determines the type of beans to be used. The beans are stewed over low heat for a long time and are cooked with salted pork, chunks of beef, smoked sausage and strips of jerked beef.

Stephen Nartey

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